Maintenance Jobs for the December Garden
As the weather begins to turn and we venture inside, gardens can easily become dormant spaces, forgotten until spring. When the greenery has died back, however, and you get to see the bare bones of your garden, winter presents a fantastic opportunity for adjusting or changing your perimeter fences – the backdrop to your spring, summer and autumn display. With bad weather and winter storms causing inevitable damage, we can use this time for repair and maintenance of structures in the garden.
Your choice of materials can subtly affect the overall feel of your garden. What kind of look are you aiming for? Does your fencing need to be showy? A wattle fence can give an earthy, organic feel. Panelled fencing can give privacy, but if not chosen carefully can lack elegance. If you have a kitchen garden, you may need to keep out the rabbits! A well-constructed fence or wall can provide the perfect frame for your garden, be it ornamental or practical.
Prune woody ornamental plants, fruit trees and bushes, shredding the prunings and putting them on your compost heap, if you have one. Have a look at the shape of your deciduous trees and shrubs to see if they need any attention to improve their health or shape. With no leaves on, it’s easier to see what you are doing now. You will need a good pair of secateurs, a pair of loppers and a pruning saw for cutting off larger branches. Cut out any dead wood. In a smaller garden, if the plant is taking up too much space it can be trimmed. The main point to remember is that the harder you prune, the stronger will be the resulting growth, so when restricting growth, light pruning will have a much more satisfactory effect than hacking back hard.
Protect plants vulnerable to frost, for example, cordylines and evergreen jasmine, by wrapping some fleece (which you can buy in a garden centre) around them. Some perennial plants, such as penstemons and verbena bonariensis, can benefit from an extra mulch once they have died back to help their roots from freezing. Last December, quite a lot of evergreen plants that we normally consider hardy, such as box, hebes and rosemary, were caught by the sudden, hard frosts, so this year keep an eye on the weather forecast and protect anything that might die in a hard winter, if possible.
Wrap insulation around outside taps; hessian will do but there are products on the market specially for insulating outside taps.
Continue winter digging as long as the ground is soft enough. If the soil is so wet that it sticks to your boots then keep off it until it dries out a bit. If you have to walk on the soil while it’s wet, use planks to get across. Trodden soil is compacted by your weight and particularly if the soil is heavy clay, the air will be driven out of it. When it does eventually dry out it will be set as hard as concrete.